Possible spoilers ahead.
I saw Brüno in the theatres this afternoon, and I’m not sure what to make of it. I mainly went out of curiosity, because I’m fascinating by his over-the-top performances. I heard a lot of concern from folks that this might be the type of movie that’s hilarious for queer folk and allies in different ways than it’s hilarious for a less queer-friendly crowd — in that, the film can be a chance for voyeurism into the oh-so-strange queer world for a straight viewer. Does the movie reinscribe queer-as-spectacle for some viewers? I don’t know.
What I do know is that so much of the movie was already shown in previews that it became predictable and boring. I laughed quite a bit (even uncontrollably and noticeably — those that have gone to movies with me will know that my laugh draws attention from others), but those moments of hysteria were sandwiched by boredom. About half-way into the movie, I just wanted it to be over. I know the movie wasn’t really made for its overall narrative or suspense, but the serial nature of the movie made it a bore when half the jokes were already given away in previews.
I also knew going in that, if anything, I’d walk out feeling hounded by liberal guilt — laughing at jokes that were racist or worried about how the film would portray gay men in the eyes of audiences who might not be gay-friendly. I guess I didn’t laugh enough to walk out feeling guilty about enjoying jokes in the movie. But I did walk out feeling annoyed and disturbed by the film’s reduction of people of color to base stereotypes. An example that probably won’t give much away: at one point, Brüno doesn’t have any furniture in his new home, so he “hires” the Latino employees working on his house to become furniture for his guest. Obviously trying to get the audience to laugh about the way many white people treat Latino laborers, the film seemed to just flop here. I couldn’t laugh at all. As with most parody, the film tried to walk the line of making fun of a situation and reinforce the situation, and the film seemed to just reinforce dehumanization.
I was also annoyed by the regionalism of the film. The most homophobic and religious people were from the South, were people of color, or both. While urban whites often reacted to Brüno’s flamboyancy and explicit sexuality with disgust, it was tolerated. In the South, however, religion and rural “backwardness” made Brüno intolerable. The logic of the movie continues a “balkanization” of the United States where LA is the liberal, open mecca and the South is rural and backward.
But overall, I was underwhelmed.